Grieving and Surviving

IMG_0770Journal: May 2002

Tish goes to the local island church on Sunday morning.  She is feeling a strong urge to be with her family, her parents and, now, ten siblings.  I think that she is also aware that her preoccupation and grief are ultimately not too healthy for me, not during our holiday.  She decides that she would rather leave on Monday.  I call United Airlines and they accommodate our request without any penalty.  We take a walk along the ocean, marveling at the amount of shells, sponges, plants, and driftwood that find their way to the sandy beach.  Later we drive into Savannah and walk along the historic riverfront district.  The hyacinths are in full bloom in the botanic islands that dissect some of Savannah’s main avenues, canopied by the great limbs of live oaks hung with Spanish moss.

Back at Tybee I fix dinner as Tish reads.  We decide that we need to leave the condo by 6:15 AM in order to be on time to check in and purchase her ticket for the 8:10 flight from the airport that is thirty miles distant on the opposite side of Savannah.  When I awaken on Monday morning and glance at my watch, I see that the time is already 6:20. A mad dash about the condo and a frantic run into, then across, then out of the city gets us to the airport about 7:30.  Security is tight in this smallish airport.  Our car trunk is searched as we approach the airline terminal.  A security guard approaches to questions me as I wait in the car curbside to make sure that Tish has no trouble at the counter claiming her ticket.

I return to Tybee, tired from too little sleep.  I spend a restful day, snacking, reading, and watching the ocean.  Late in the afternoon I walk along the beach taking photographs in the setting sun.  I drink one of the local Georgia beers that I had bought earlier.  Beer sure tastes good but I still find it difficult to finish even one bottle since my illness.

On Tuesday morning I make the three-hour drive to St. Augustine, Florida.  It is beautiful sunny day.  The trip brings back memories.  We stop there in the country’s oldest city each year on our family vacation.  As soon as I step from the car at the Visitors Center, I discover that Florida stills holds magic for me after over thirty years of visits.  Even though the state is now overdeveloped, it has rocketed from 37th in the nation in population in 1960 to 6th or 7th now; it has a psychological hold on me.  The sky is bluer, the sun warmer, and the air hints of salt and sealife.

I visit Sailor’s Exchange at the edge of the old city where every surplus and salvaged sailboat part imaginable can be found.  I buy books, small items, boat wax, a T-shirt, and a ship’s bell.  I could have purchased more if I knew what I needed for the Bayfield.  In Savannah over the coming week I will visit every boat chandler to purchase sale and clearance items.  I imagine that when I return to Indianapolis spring will have arrived and I will spend solid days working on the Bayfield.

Later I visit a local marina just to be near sailboats and people that spend their lives cruising in them.  I make our traditional stop at the local used bookstore on King Street.  I look into an evening cruise on a steel schooner sailing out of City Marina.  I cross the Bridge of Lions and drive out to the beach, to the pier that always offers us our first sight of the ocean surf.  I find an open-sided restaurant called Seabreeze Cafe where I sit by the open window and order a flounder sandwich, fries and Foster’s beer.  I drive back to the marina as weather approaches from the western sky.  At the docks I learn that the schooner will not go out for the later afternoon cruise due to foul weather warnings.

Frustrated I return to A1A, the famous highway that runs along Florida’s east coast.  I drive down thirty miles down to Flagler Beach with the weather chasing me.  The surf is kicking up.  I take a few photographs from the beach as dramatically darkened blue-gray sky overtakes the land, the narrow beach and then the water.  Huge drops of rain begin to fall as I reach the car.  The drive back is long but the day has been satisfying.  A whole day by myself, a genuine adventure for someone who has grown used to people trying to take care of him.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Grieving and Surviving — 1 Comment

  1. Dennis,
    I loved this post. It felt like a script in a movie, so easy to imagine myself there. Living on the west coast, I too have always been drawn to the sea. It has the power to transport us to another place.

    Happy New Year,


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